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With the UFC heading back to Mexico City this weekend, the question on every fight fan’s mind is the same. We all want to know how the fighters will be affected by fighting at elevation as Mexico City is roughly 7,200 feet above sea level. Historically, we have seen multiple fighters have cardio issues, even some that were not known for gassing out in previous fights.

I went back and looked at the past 10 years of fight cards that were hosted in locations well above sea level. I included fight cards that were located at a minimum 4,000 feet above sea level. The sample size is 13 fight cards and 147 bouts. We can use this data and compare it to historical performance to see if we can figure out anything predictive regarding the fighter’s performance. Is this narrative of more fights ending early and fighters gassing out when fighting at elevation predictive or just noise?

As you can see, the amount of times the fights at elevation went to decision was perfectly in line with historical performance. There was less knockouts at elevation in total but more submissions which may be chalked up to variance as finishes are high variance in nature. But let’s break it down by weight class and see if anything changes.

Flyweight

What is interesting about Flyweights is that they are actually going to decision more when fighting at elevation as opposed to normal conditions. This goes against the narrative of fights ending earlier due to fighters gassing out at elevation.

Bantamweight

We see the same decision trend continue in the Bantamweight division when fighting significantly above sea level. There have been significantly less knockouts and much more decisions in this weight class compared to historical numbers.

Featherweight

In the Featherweight division, we see a slight uptick in knockouts and a significant bump in submissions as well. Finishes have been more noticeable in the Featherweight division when fighting at elevation.

Lightweight

In the Lightweight division, decisions have been mostly in line with historical performance but there was a noticeable jump in submissions which is also consistent with multiple other divisions. I am not sure why this is but maybe because fighters get tired quicker with less oxygen and do not have as much energy to fight off submissions attempts?

Welterweight

Here we see it again with not only more finishes in the Welterweight division but significantly more submissions. This was the most notable difference across all divisions with Welterweights clearly finishing more fights when fighting significantly above sea level.

Middleweight

The Middleweight division saw more decisions when fighting at elevation. They also saw a drop in knockouts and right in line with historical averages on submissions.

The rest of the divisions had less than a 10-fight sample and it is likely not possible to draw any meaningful conclusions but are included below.

Light Heavyweight

Heavyweight

Strawweight

Women’s Flyweight

Women’s Bantamweight

In conclusion, it’s possible all of this is just noise and it will be interesting to follow as the UFC hosts more events at high altitude locations. The conclusions that I drew based on the data is that fighters at a lower weight class are going to decision more often when they fight at elevation. Additionally, fighters across nearly all weight divisions are more likely to win by submission than when they are not fighting above sea level.

If you want access to my spreadsheet where I tracked this, you can check it out here. I manually logged the elevation data and the historical numbers were pulled from Nate Latshaw’s website which has tons of helpful UFC data.

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